As long term followers of my previous website will be aware, since 2012 I have been lucky to call Coach Jay DeMayo a friend and colleague. Jay is the founder of the Central Virginia Sports Performance Seminar. I have attended in person twice, I followed this year’s online and I listen to the podcast on a regular basis (excluding my own episode!).
It is without question one of the finest seminars in the business. Jay attracts truly elite level speakers to his events including Buddy Morris, Henk Kraiienhoff, Joel Jamieson, Kelly Starrett and more. I use information taken away from these seminars on a daily basis and I can trace back some of my best coaching relationships and experiences from the seminar- visiting Louie Simmons, learning from Dr Natalia Verkhoshansky, meeting up with Cal Dietz in Minnesota, the list goes on.
Consequently I was very excited when Jay sent me a copy of the new CVASPS manual. This is basically a combination of the seminar and podcast in written form- each of the authors is given a chapter to write about a practical topic that is dear to their heart. They have to present the science underpinning the issue, talk about its practical implications and how to make an immediate improvement to your programme in the real world. This is the kind of learning I like.
The purpose of this review is to provide a short synopsis of each chapter and what value you might be able to take away from it. Enjoy:
Chapter 1: The Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach
Dr Mike Gentry's contribution is the most abstract in the book, but still incredibly valuable. This is basically a list of things the coach must do to make the programme "work", from building relationships, being a leader, setting standards, having a long career. Dr Gentry has been in the field for 30+ years, and success leaves clues, enough said.
Chapter 2: Sport Science on a Budget
Kevin Dawidowicz is the President and Founder of CoachMePlus, a sport science monitoring and tracking application for sports teams. His chapter shares ideas on how to monitor athletes using simple, inexpensive tools across a variety of different measures. This includes subjective questionnaires, body weight and hydration status and training impulse. These ideas will be nothing new to many coaches but the real value here is that Kevin spells out exactly how to create these tools in excel and how to interpret the findings.
Chapter 3: Injury reduction
Yosef is the owner of Ultimate Athlete Concepts, the biggest translator of Soviet and Eastern Bloc training materials in the English speaking world. As such he has built up a wealth of practical training knowledge and relationships with some of the pioneers of strength and conditioning. This chapter is a good summary of all the factors a coach should consider when attempting to prevent injuries. Nothing groundbreaking but it gets outside the usual paradigm of "just be strong", moving into territory like genetics, nutrition, stress and sleep, technical mastery and more.
Chapter 4: Motor learning: breaking bad habits
This chapter by Jeff Moyer is a slightly shorter version of the content that is available from Jeff's presentation inside our online community (click here to try it for £1). This is an extremely detailed break down of the motor learning process, how we influence motor learning with training and the use of special exercises to teach proper movement or correct faulty movement. This area is massive in performance and injury prevention, yet it gets almost no consideration from most coaches.
Chapter 5: Muscle Fibre Specific Training
Henk Kraaienhof is a track and field specialist with 35+ years of experience coaching World and Olympic medallists, and professional athletes from other sports. His short chapter breaks down the factors determining fibre type composition, and practical solutions for how we can influence it with training. Some items of note that I took away include using non-invasive tools to infer fibre distribution in athletes and rethinking eccentric training (hint- just because you lower it slowly doesn't make it eccentric training!).
Chapter 6: Physical Preparation for Basketball Player
The aforementioned Dr Natalia Verkhoshansky authored this particular chapter. Whilst the sport of basketball has limited transfer to rugby, the biggest take away for a rugby minded coach or athlete from this chapter will be to see her system of plyometrics and jumps laid out in the real world. Due to translations from Russian to English (often with Italian in between) her materials can often be difficult to understand in practical terms. Here there is no such problem, and the logical flow from phase to phase is evident, as is the organisation of the training week.
Chapter 7: Velocity Based Training In-season
Again, this is a shorter version of a presentation that is available inside our community by Dr Bryan Mann, covering the same topics: using VBT to train different strength qualities, to set thresholds for fatigue management, and most importantly to infer injury risk. As Dr Mann's recent paper revealed, periods of high academic stress can triple injury rates in collegiate athletes without proper management of training load. Using VBT to monitor power output can be one way to manage this risk.
Chapter 8: Possible Physiological Factors Contributing to Fatigue in Team Sports
Dr Ben Peterson in addition to authoring this chapter was the co-author of triphasic training which has been written about extensively on this blog. Check it out if you haven't already. Ben does a great job in this chapter of detailing the energy pathways, and how exercise affects them, from depletion of their substrates to production of inhibitory by products. This is all neatly put into the context of repeat sprint ability, which is obviously the most prized conditioning ability a field sport athlete like a rugby player can possess. This chapter is extremely applicable to what I do!
Chapter 9: Implementing and Integrating MAS Training for Field Sport Athletes
Danny Raimondi's chapter is a highly practical application of Dan Baker's MAS method. Although I'm not a fan of this method, Danny does a good job of introducing field based MAS testing, and how the method can be progressed from one mesocycle to the next and within the training week. This includes a well thought out off-season programme that coaches/athletes will be able to use in their own programmes.
Chapter 10: Respiratory Muscle Training
Matt Thome's chapter is the topic that I am least familiar with, although from personal conversations with other coaches I think breath training may be an area of focus for my programmes in the near future. Matt makes an interesting case that fatigue of the breathing musculature during intensive exercise might not just be a side effect of fatigue, but also a contributing factor to it (in accordance with Professor Tim Noakes Central Governance theory). As such, if we can reduce the cost of breathing during exercise, we may be able to improve conditioning by reducing fatigue feedback signals to the brain. Considering the short time taken to implement this training, and the non-existent mechanical cost the potential benefits greatly outweigh any potential costs. Promising stuff!
Who would benefit from this book?
This is definitely not a book for beginners or players who want quick results and the how rather than the why. If you read this manual expect to hit the ground running. Whilst the topics in each chapter are explained excellently, they are not basic (I am coming up to a decade in coaching and there is stuff in the pages I've yet to try).
If you are new to coaching and don't at least have a couple of years under your belt, you will struggle to get the maximum value out of these pages. Pick up a copy, but use this it to learn and to guide where you want your programme to go in the future. Supplement with other more basic materials.
If you are a little more established (or a VERY intrigued player writing his or her own programme), you will get a ton out of this book. Once you have the fundamentals in place i.e. your speed/strength/power/conditioning programme, each chapter will give you highly practical, proven information to make it even better. I have already made some small changes to my programmes using this manual, and more changes are on the horizon.
My praise for this manual is the same praise I give to Jay for all of his ventures: value for money. At $35 this book is a steal. I would pay many times this amount to come away with one idea that helped make my athletes better on the field, or avoid one more injury, let alone 10 chapters worth. The CVASPS seminar itself is still the best learning experience I've ever had as a coach. If you can, save up the money and attend. If you can't, be honest with yourself that really you can, save up the money and attend. If you really honestly can't, take the best option and buy the recordings along with this manual. You won't be disappointed.